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Saturday, January 16, 2021

A car rally with multi-faith pitstops: Brisbane tribute to Gandhi

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In a unique tribute to Gandhi on his sesquicentenary, a car rally titled Bapu Peace Drive has made its way through Sikh, Muslim and Christian places of worship highlighting the Mahatma’s message of peace and inclusivity.

The peace convoy started from Coffs Harbour in northern NSW, travelled through Grafton, and finished up at the Gandhi statue at the Roma St Parklands Brisbane installed last year.
The distance travelled – exactly 389 kms, the same distance walked by Gandhi and his followers in the Dandi Salt March in 1930.

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The seven-car convoy was led by three Mahindra vehicles, in a nod to Gandhiji’s “swadeshi” ideology stressing self- dependence. The car rally was organised by the Australian charity
Gandhi Salt March Ltd (GSML) and the Indian High Commission, and was supported by the Speaker of Queensland Parliament Curtis Pitt.

Pitt was joined by GSML’s Dr Ram Mohan and Akashika Mohla on the drive, along with Ali Kadir, spokesperson of the Islamic Council of Queensland. “The drive through Grafton was particularly significant,” Akashika Mohla, who developed the concept of this particular Gandhi Bapu campaign, told Indian Link. “As a vulnerable community since the Christchurch killings, given that the perpetrator of this violent crime came from here, Gandhi’s messages of peace and non-violence were particularly significant here on the International Day of
Non Violence.”

The rally was welcomed by Grafton Mayor Jim Simmons and ministers at the Anglican Church, a spot where the Christchurch killer regularly offered worship himself.
The convoy then moved to Holland Park Mosque, the oldest mosque in Queensland, which was founded by Indian and Afghan origin settlers. “We spent time over a shared meal communicating with the gathered Muslim leaders,” Mohla said. “Women are welcome in this
mosque; the warm welcome by Aunty Janeth Deen, President of the Islamic Council of Qld and Holland Park Mosque was very humbling. It was great to note Indian heritage of most of the Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Earlier, the kick-off at Coffs Harbour Gurudwara was also significant, given the upcoming Prakash Utsav, the 550th birth anniversary of the Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Local MP of Sikh heritage and Dy Speaker NSW Parliament, Gurmesh Singh also joined briefly at the Gurudwara.

The crew regrouped at the final destination, at Bapu’s feet at Roma St Parklands.
Jim Varghese, the Chair of GSML, welcomed the yatris (travellers) alongside Hemant and Kalpna Naik of Gandhi Committee; CEO Adani Australia  Samir Vora and others. One of Gandhi’s favourite hymns Raghupati Raghav was sung for world peace.

Sweets made by Guju brother Vishnu Chaudhary were distributed.
Later, Curtis Pitt and Jim Varghese hosted the Bapu Peace Reception at Queensland Parliament, with over 100 guests from government, academia, diplomacy and the
community, invited for a light vegetarian high tea. “Our campaign connected the people and places that are in need of a shot of some Gandhian values, or are proponents of these values themselves,” Akashika said later. “The aim was to spread the message of peace, non
violence and inclusion. Participation came from business, community and government stakeholders, all of who can do their bit to help in building an Australia of strong
ethical values.”

GSML aims to promote the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi with a specific focus on world peace, humanitarian pursuits and charitable endeavours.

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